Don’t respond angry


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Inevitably, you’re going to get an e-mail from a supervisor, colleague or friend that angers you. You’ll be upset and want to respond using choice words. I had a supervisor who once called these kinds of e-mails 2x4s because, like in Saturday morning cartoons, they usually come out of the blue and smack you across the forehead.


The usual advice is to write those choice words and be angry, just don’t hit send. I’d suggest not writing the e-mail in the first place. If you must, write it out by hand, on a piece of paper. Michael Hyatt’s Stop: Don’t Send That Angry E-Mail advises this method as well. He, like many before him, has reread an angry letter only to later be embarrassed by what he wrote.

If you have the luxury, close the window, walk away from the computer and do something else. For 5 minutes, an hour or even better, overnight.

A Google search of “don’t respond angry” will take you to the Business Insider’s How To Respond To An Angry E-mail (And Not Let It Destroy Your Career) suggests offering to meet the sender face to face or at least over the phone. Conversational context can make the difference between a misunderstanding and intent.

Hyatt’s trusted advisers often as him, what are you trying to accomplish with your response? It’s a great question. The first answer might be to hurt the person’s feelings back. Childish, true, but it’s a reflex. Once you get beyond that, really ask yourself what you want to accomplish in the communication.

In summary, a commenter on Hyatt’s post, John Jackson, reiterates the phrase, “Praise in print, criticize in person.” If you follow that rule as closely as  the golden rule, you should save yourself from responding angry and regretting it later.